“Then she’s a ticking time bomb,” I observe. “That doesn’t make me feel better.”

“We’re going to have Dante help her disappear.” Liam glances at his watch. “I need to call Josh before he’s tied up with the party. And I need to call Chad and make sure he dumps the phone number he’s using now for a new one.”

A bad thought comes to my mind. “Can’t Jared trace the calls we make to Josh and Chad?”

Liam reaches in his pocket and sets an identical phone down next to the one he’d given me earlier. “I’m not using my cell phone to make any call that isn’t safe.”

“How do you tell them apart?” I ask.

He shows me a tiny silver dot on the answer button. It seems we’re prepared for anything, and yet we weren’t prepared for Meg or Jared.

AN HOUR LATER, Liam, Tellar, and I are sitting at the kitchen table eating pizza. We’ve left a message for Chad, and Josh has promised to do whatever it takes to get Dante on board. From there we get lost in replaying every moment we’ve ever spent with Jared, looking for times he’s lied, proof he might have outside interests beyond the CIA.

“All I know,” Tellar concludes, finishing off a bite, “is he’s after the cylinder. They’re all after that damn cylinder, and getting Dante in place is going to be a relief.”

Liam agrees, and I reach for the phone next to him to try Chad again. He covers it and my hand with his. “We’ve called twice, baby. Stop fretting. He probably got the message and changed phones.”

I swallow the knot in my throat. “I know. I just want to hear his voice.” And I wonder if there will ever be a day I won’t fear he is dead.

“And you will. But right now his silence is best for everyone involved.”

The buzzer to our front gate goes off and Tellar pulls out his phone to look at the security camera feed. “Simple black sedan.” He stands and walks to the small intercom on the wall and flips it open. “Can I help you?”

“It’s Josh. I come bearing gifts.”

My brow furrows. “Should he be here? Doesn’t that bring attention to our relationship with him?”

“We have our interactions with Josh covered with business,” Liam says, lifting his chin at Tellar. “Let him in.”

“I’ll go greet him,” Tellar says, punching the button to open the gate and moving toward the door.

Liam glances at his watch. “I didn’t expect to see Josh an hour before his party.”

A thought hits me and I reach for the phone again. “We didn’t tell Chad about Jared. We should leave him another message.”

“So he can charge over here to defend you?” Liam asks. “That could be exactly what Jared was after.”

“He wants Chad, or any of you, to make a mistake.”

At Josh’s voice, I look up to find him standing at the edge of the island with a tall, fit man in his early forties, sporting silvery hair, standing next to him. Both men look devastatingly handsome in tuxes.

Liam stands and I join him. “Coming here with Dante is a mistake,” he says.

“The windows are tinted and the car and plates can’t be traced,” Dante assures him. “I don’t make mistakes.”

Respect slides over Liam’s face. “Good to know,” he says, stepping around the table to greet him. “Pleased to finally meet you.”

“Mr. Liam Stone,” he says, his voice slightly sharp, his features sharper. “Prodigy, protégé, billionaire. I expected arrogance.”

I laugh and everyone looks at me. “Well, he is arrogant,” I say. “But he’s a good person.”

“I’ll confirm that,” Josh comments. “Arrogant prick, but a good man.”

Tellar joins us, standing beside Josh. “No comment. I have to see him every day.”

“Good thinking,” Liam states dryly.

Abruptly Dante’s attention falls on me. “Amy Bensen,” he says, his gray eyes calculating, intelligent. “You, I admire. Six years on the run, on your own, and it didn’t break you.”

“Running wasn’t what was hard. It was not knowing what I was running from. I want that to end.”

“Control,” he says.

“Yes,” I agree, and there is a sense of understanding between us.

“Why don’t we sit,” Josh suggests, holding up an envelope. “I have something to show you that I think you’ll find interesting.”

Liam motions to the table and we all sit down, Liam and Tellar at the ends of the shiny black dining set, while I claim the spot next to Liam. Dante and Josh take the middle seats across from each other, with Dante to Liam’s left.

“I’ve brought Dante up to speed with the immediate situation and hired him,” Josh begins. “He knows we’re protecting a secret. He knows it could impact the world. He knows about Chad. And finally, he knows we want him to be in that inner circle.”

Dante glances at Liam. “Something we can discuss in detail, once we get past your immediate situation.”

“Which is more complex than you think,” Josh adds, opening the envelope and tossing a picture on the table.

My lips part in shock at the sight of Meg and Jared standing together on a street. Liam pulls it toward him, studying Meg in her dark wig and glasses. “That son of a bitch. This was taken today.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance
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